So far this season, the Georgia Bulldogs’ defense has been up to head coach Kirby Smart’s standards in most areas thus far.
Georgia’s defense ranks 9th in the country in total defense only giving up an average of 262.5 yards per game, and their opponents only average 4.18 yards per play. Through five games, Georgia’s scoring defense is sixth in the nation.
Even with a stout defense, Smart commented on Monday that they have got to do a better job as a unit in the first half.
“Settling down is the key. Playing and understanding what the team is trying to do to us,” Smart said. “Maybe we’ve got to do a better job as coaches of preparing them early in the game.”
In the first half against Tennessee, freshman quarterback Brian Maurer picked apart Georgia’s secondary completing 10 of his 21 passes and throwing for 205 yards and two scores. 6 of those 10 passes in the first half were for 15 yards or more. The longest was when Maurer completed a 73-yard pass to receiver Marquez Callaway that went for a touchdown.
“I think, when you’re a good defense, I do think that you don’t see the same things,” said Smart. “So what happens is, in the history of the really good defenses I’ve been with, you go into a game expecting one thing, and the other team has worked really hard to try to counteract that and get off tendencies to do different things.”
In the second half, Georgia’s defense made some major adjustments. Maurer only completed 4 of his 7 passes for 54 yards and was intercepted by Georgia’s Richard LeCounte. Maurer also fumbled the ball on a big hit by Eric Stokes, and Tae Crowder scooped the ball up and returned it for a touchdown.
Two weeks prior, Notre Dame’s Ian Book proved he could move the ball against Georgia’s defense in the first half. In the third quarter, Georgia’s defense only gave up 9 total yards. On the first drive, Georgia defensive back Divaad Wilson intercepted Book’s pass on third down. The next two drives the Bulldogs forced back-to-back three and outs. On Notre Dame’s first drive of the fourth quarter, Georgia’s J.R. Reed intercepted Book’s pass. The only complete drive Notre Dame had in the second half was when they marched down the field in the fourth quarter to score their last points of the game.
Through the first five games, Georgia’s defense has only given up 17 points in the second half. The Bulldogs have had three second-half shutouts against their first five opponents this year.
“You see different stuff because they’re trying to generate plays against you, and that’s been the case for us, but we’ve got to do a better job starting off for sure” Smart added.
Georgia senior defensive tackle Michael Barnett agreed with Smart’s point.
“I feel like when we go up against teams in the first half that we get everyone’s best shot, and they’re going to run some things we’ve never seen,” said Barnett. “So at halftime we just make adjustments to things and we try to focus on stuff we’ve done wrong.”
Barnett added that he thinks they do a good job on capitalizing in the third quarter, and need to continue to be more consistent with that.
“We just really read our keys and really focus on what we’re messing up. The things that we do well, I feel like we’re supposed to do those things well,” said Barnett. That’s the game of football. We practice all week to get those things right. So, when we execute them right, we’re happy, but at the same time, those things that we get wrong, we have to fix those things. So that’s what we primarily focus on.”
Against South Carolina, the Dawgs will face another former coach as the Gamecocks’ offensive coordinator is Bryan McClendon. McClendon coached under Mark Richt at Georgia from 2009-2013 serving as the running backs coach.
Georgia will face South Carolina at home on Saturday, October 12th at noon in Sanford Stadium.
Here is the video from Kirby Smart’s Monday press conference: